Have you seen “American Hipster,” the new Youtube channel dedicated to hipster comedy and hipster documentaries? No. Of course you haven’t. The reason being is that it’s genuinely painful to watch.
The series is based around three ideas:
1) Two hipster grandmas (actually, just two people pretending to be grandmas) critique the weeks news.
2) A hipster baby (actually just a baby) does movie reviews.
3) A hipster (actually just a guy) interviews hipsters across the United States.
Here, take a look at the trailer. Keep in mind that this isn’t some kind of “Portlandia“-esque parody – they’re actually trying to fight for hipster attention:
What “American Hipster” plans to do is be the catch-all go-to comedy and information channel for anyone that genuinely thinks that “hipster” as a word means anything; an idea so yawningly boring that Ben Stein’s speaking voice is suing for royalties. The production company that makes them is the San Francisco based start-up Seedwell, which, apparently, makes videos for the internet and tries to pass itself off as a creative agency. But wait! They make viral videos. But wait! The videos are terrible. These are the same guys behind the Lady Gaga “Telephone” (Office version), which, you know, is set in an office! Ha ha! Get it? Did you guys not get that joke about bosses and staplers and stuff?
By all means, bravo to the guys at getting a few million hits off of baseless reactionary jokes based entirely off of other people’s jokes, that’s their business. What should be noted is that “American Hipster” is so far off the mark that it fails on every single level. It fails at being relevant to hipsters by seemingly just tacking the word onto the title. It fails on a comedic level: the grandma and the baby are blindingly unfunny and have been done hundreds of times before. It fails even on an informative level: I’ll admit that the host of the “American Hipster” documentary thing seems to be charming enough to be able to get the viewer through a whole video and seems to be having the time of his life being along for the ride of hosting a show, but seven minutes on iPhone photography? What’s next? Let me guess – you’re going to interview a tattoo artist in Portland. A guy with a beard in Seattle. A chef with a pierced septum in New Orleans. And so on. And so forth.
Ultimately, what makes it so unfunny is the blatant co-opting of a word that they don’t seem to have anything invested in besides an attempt to make a quick buck. I don’t want to get into the bullshit “scene rules” or unwritten things about the notion of “cool” – please, that shit is for the birds – but “hipster” as a word means nothing at all. What Seedwell fundamentally misses is that “hipster” simply means “young and urban” at this point – the changeover, if you will, has fully taken place. Take a look at mainstream fashion from 1992 and you’ll see hipster fashion from 2012. It’s all a fucking ruse anyway, Seedwell, so why are you betting the entire farm on the “youth” culture?
The last thing “youth culture” wants is to be constantly reminded that they are (and they ARE) a quantifiable demographic. You can’t approach selling cell phones to twenty-somethings (which Seedwell have tried, miserably) the same way you would approach selling cereal to children. This isn’t so much “Generation Y” as it is “Generation Y-are-you-trying-to-box-me-in”; an entire youth culture based entirely around the fact that smarter marketers realize that we will approach them, and not the other way around. We are a generation that isn’t going to buy you’re mayonaisse just because you tell us it’s “different”, daddy-o.
To be fair to Seedwell, their biggest mistake wasn’t the comedy parts, as at least the Hipster Grandma bit is pretty snazzy looking and committed to by the actors, and the baby fares about as well as any given SNL sketch from the mid ’90s. I can’t fault them there – performance is the least of Seedwell’s worries. What is worrying is that they seem to be looking at youth culture from the outside in – a trio of late-to-the-party guys who seem to be reveling in creating well-produced YouTube fare. By trying to attach themselves so vehemently to a word that means so little is their biggest fail. What works is the documentary guy. What doesn’t work is telling us what Instagram is. We already know that. Show yourself the door or show us something that doens’t make us feel like idiots. I’m trying to help you here. Rule number one of talking to strangers: never underestimate your audience. That’s what makes Portlandia work… they know that the viewer is in on the joke about youth culture being completely insufferable. “American Hipster” seems to relish being insufferable.
Without further ado is the one of the fucking movie-reviewing baby sketches. Do you see what I’m getting at here? Movie reviewing baby. I’m not exactly Don Draper here but I can tell you with full certainty that that concept is asinine and must have been thought up by someone with a head injury under several heavy blankets. Yes, I’m ripping on a child, but rules are rules, and I didn’t put my time into listening to all those Pavement albums growing up to be told what a “hipster” is by a goddam baby. That’s kinda what this comes down to, folks! Me getting angry at a baby.
If you want to check out more, go to the “American Hipster” YouTube page. Or don’t, and wait for them to try harder.